UKIBC’s second Socio Economic Impact conference discusses critical SDG issues for India amidst a backdrop of COP26 and FTA negotiations

By Kealan Finnegan

New Delhi, 11th November 2021: The UK India Business Council hosted a panel discussion on the ‘Socio-Economic Impact’ of UK businesses in India at an event at the British High Commissioner’s Residence in New Delhi.

UKIBC Executive Chair, Richard Heald, and British High Commissioner, Alex Ellis, were joined by Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, Nadia Rasheed, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP India, and Yashika Singh, Vice-President – Corporate Affairs, Pernod Ricard, for a panel discussion moderated by Mr Heald at the event. The group discussed the role that business can and is playing in the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, highlighting the role that trade and investment can play for international cooperation and collaboration to such goals.

With the event taking place at the same time as COP26 in Glasgow, the UK-India energy and climate partnership has been front and centre of bilateral discussions in the past two weeks. In Glasgow, Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Johnson together announced three major initiatives that will see our countries partner across renewable energy grids, finance, and disaster relief initiatives.

British High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, said: “The recovery from Covid-19 presents an extraordinary opportunity for the UK and India to build back better and provide jobs that will promote stronger and more sustainable economic growth. Businesses have played a key role throughout the pandemic and, as we’re seeing at COP26 in Glasgow, business will once again be at the heart of realising a low carbon future and creating new, green jobs. Our bilateral economic relationship already supports nearly half-a-million jobs in both economies and I am delighted to see the positive social impact these businesses have made.”

UKIBC Chair Richard Heald said: “Businesses and investors are increasingly conscientious of the part they ‘can’, or rather as is now well accepted ‘should’, play towards the achievement of the sustainable development goals. Discussions at the Board level of many entities underscores increased focus. Increased weighing within investment portfolios reflects the preference of end-investors. The combination of these two drivers means the scope for international collaboration is enormous and is growing more powerful. The UK and India bilateral relationship is strong and sustainability under the new Comprehensive Strategic Partnership is very much to the fore. We are really pleased to support businesses and investors working in the economic corridor in playing their significant part, deeply invested in the economy and widely impacting across society.

The UKIBC’s Socio-Economic Impact Campaign aims to support businesses’ contribution towards the sustainable development goals in India and the UK. With more than 570 UK companies working in India, and the acknowledged notion that business has a societal role to play, investment is helping to engender prosperity in education, healthcare, gender equality, and energy, as well as creating jobs and economic growth.

Nadia Rasheed, UNDP India said: “As we work towards the 2030 agenda, now more than ever, we need accelerated efforts and partnerships from the Government, UN Agencies, civil society, and the private sector. British businesses have been contributing towards sustainable and inclusive growth in India through their programmes and we look forward to working together with them.”

At the event Mr Amitabh Kant, NITI Aayog, emphasised the fact that a nation like India cannot sustain a 9-10% economic growth decade on decade without a strong thrust to the social development sectors. He shared the various initiatives the Government has introduced to keep the focus on growth with equity, where every state is taken along. SDG goals become the critical transformative factor to this end. He emphasised the need for public, private partnerships and the critical role of technology in creating a cleaner, greener and inclusive society.

The UKIBC welcomes cooperation between India and the UK towards the SDGs and the shared commitment for climate action that has been on display at COP26. Businesses will play a key role in the energy transition, and the UN Climate Conference has seen positive announcements from businesses working in the UK-India corridor to support these goals.

Yashika Singh, Pernod Ricard said: “Together with SWA and Diageo, our industry is actively working to support sustainable development and support livelihoods in India. At Pernod Ricard India, we aim to play a significant role in India’s growth story through our economic contributions as well as our social impact initiatives. We are committed to deepening our partnerships to identify needs and priorities, and strengthen the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for India. Through our initiatives in Water-Agriculture-Livelihoods, Education, Water Sanitation, Healthcare and Responsible Consumption – we hope to transform our communities, accelerate local development, and nurture sustainable relationships such that we are the partner of choice for all.”

Pernod Ricard India has committed to playing a decisive role in augmenting India’s growth story with an emphasis on the SDGs through a strong portfolio of programmes rooted in social purpose and partnerships. Among its programmes, which touch issues such as gender equality, poverty alleviation and nature, Pernod is working to restore and rejuvenate degraded and deforested land in its watersheds and to protect and conserve India’s rich biodiversity in key landscapes. It is also working to strengthening communities with water development and foster resilience by safeguarding availability, quality, and quantity of water for communities with a focus on including small, marginal, and women farmers around its plants.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the trade body that represents the Scotch Whisky industry, had earlier launched a new Sustainability Strategy in 2021, committing the sector to reach net zero emissions by 2040. To highlight its sustainability commitments and the collaboration of the industry to reach net zero, the SWA – which was announced as an official Race to Zero partner by the United Nations’ High Level Climate Action Champions – also launched a limited edition blended Scotch Whisky for COP26, which was presented to negotiators gathering in Glasgow in November.

Diageo is stepping up its efforts to tackle climate change and water stress. The ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ is Diageo’s 10-year action plan on the role it will play in society and is fundamental to its Mission to create long-term value for all its stakeholders. The organisation’s ESG goals are based on three pillars, driving ESG from Grain to Glass, Moving India towards “Drink Better” and be a leader in Inclusion and Diversity. Diageo aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions in operations by 2025, net water positive by 2026 and plastic waste positive by end of 2022, believing that this will help to build a more sustainable, responsible, and inclusive business and society.

The UK India Business Council works to support trade and investment between the UK and India through policy advocacy and strategic advisory services.

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